Home Repair is Homicide 13 - Crawlspace

BOOK: Home Repair is Homicide 13 - Crawlspace
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ALSO BY SARAH GRAVES

The Dead Cat Bounce
Triple Witch
Wicked Fix
Repair to Her Grave
Wreck the Halls
Unhinged
Mallets Aforethought
Tool & Die
Nail Biter
Trap Door
The Book of Old Houses
A Face at the Window

N
OW THAT IT WAS TOO LATE
,
SHE KNEW HOW WRONG SHE
had been. Watching her own hand slide wetly across the kitchen counter top, her fingers clutching uselessly at its edge before slipping off in a slick of her own blood, she understood at last.

“Roger,” she whispered. Her husband’s name. But it came out a wordless sigh.

They’d been fighting again. In the past few months, ever since she’d begun fearing that his brother, Randy, might still be alive, Roger had changed from loving husband to punishing enemy.

The idea that Randy might have faked his own death was irrational, even paranoid. But it kept coming back, and this morning’s argument over it had been the worst yet.

The memory unfurled dreamily now as she lay on the kitchen floor. “Stop!” Roger had shouted, shaking her by the shoulders. “Do you understand me? I’m
sick
of it!”

Of her fear, he meant, not only that Randy still lived but that he had killed her sister, Cordelia.

Poor murdered Cordelia, who’d believed until she died that the extravagant double wedding they’d had—the Dodd brothers, Roger and Randy, marrying the Lang girls, herself and Cordelia—was a dream come true….

She studied her hand, the fingers curling weakly, as it went limp on
the tile. She didn’t want to think about why the usually spotless surface felt wet and sticky.

Or about whose shoes those were, inches from her head. She whispered again. But this time no sound came out at all. Instead, this morning’s battle went on replaying in her mind, the past more real to her now than anything in the present. More alive …

“This crazy obsession of yours,” he’d bellowed at her, his eyes wild and frightened. She’d tried to get away, to wriggle out of his grip, but he wouldn’t let go.

“I’m sorry,” she’d babbled. Could it have been only an hour ago? “I’ll never talk about it again, Roger. Truly I won’t.”

About how she’d awakened one morning to the realization that her brother-in-law, Randy, had not fallen off his fishing boat and drowned two years ago, as everyone believed. That the reason his body never turned up had nothing to do with tides or currents.

That he was alive, that he’d killed Cordelia … and that now he was coming back to kill her, too.

Roger’s hands had released her shoulders, only to close on her throat. Terrified, she’d torn at his grip, but he was bigger and stronger than she was, and so angry.

So … frightened.
Why?
she’d wondered as, with a breathless shriek, she shrank from him.

“Please,” she’d begged him. As if even then it could all be undone and things could be all right again.

But they couldn’t. As if realizing this, Roger had let his hands drop and slammed out of the house.

Now her cheek pressed the floor where a pool spread away from her. At eye level, it reminded her of the wine-dark sea she’d studied about in school so long ago.

Too late now for fear, for apologies or regrets. Too late …

Now she knew.

CHAPTER
1

Y
OU’RE AWFULLY QUIET,” CAROLYN RATHBONE COMPLAINED
as Chip Hahn pulled the Volvo sedan into the empty parking lot and turned the ignition off at last.

He looked down at his hands. He’d had a bad feeling about this trip all along. Still did.

She tried again: “Don’t you like these people you’re going to see tomorrow, or what?”

It was just past eight in the evening. He’d been driving all day to
reach Eastport, Maine, before nightfall and had missed by about four hours. God, it got dark early here in November.

“I like them. It’s been ten years since I’ve seen them, is all.” More than ten, actually, so long ago that he hadn’t even called to let any of them know he was coming.

He just meant to stop in and say hello if they were at home. And anyway, his silence had nothing to do with his old friends, but Carolyn had stopped listening and got out of the car before he could finish saying so.

Sighing, he hauled the heavy satchel containing her laptop, BlackBerry, iPod, and vodka bottle plus six hardcover copies of her latest book,
Young Savages: Bad Drugs, Sick Sex, and Bloody Murder in the Richest Town in America
, out of the Volvo’s back seat. The parking lot overlooked a wooden pier sticking out into Passamaquoddy Bay, he knew from his map. The long, narrow body of salt water divided Moose Island, which the little bayside town of Eastport perched on, from the Canadian island of Campobello.

Tonight the bay was inky black, with thin, silvery crescents shining atop the waves, reflections of dock lights illuminating a long concrete breakwater about a hundred yards distant. The salt air smelled of seaweed, creosote, and wood smoke.

“Come on, Chip,” Carolyn called petulantly from across the street. “Hurry up.”

The cold wind off the water cut through his jacket, adding another complaint to his already full list of them. He was tired, hungry, and unaccountably nervous, and the sharp tang of sea salt in the night air somehow made him feel worse.

As he shouldered Carolyn’s satchel another unpleasant shiver went through him, as if he not only wanted to be home in his own small, familiar Manhattan apartment, but that he should be. That something bad might happen because he wasn’t.

And so far, nothing about Eastport was doing much to change that. Old two-story brick commercial buildings lined the main street.
All were dark now except the one open restaurant on the corner, a half-dozen cars clustered in front of it.

Other than that, this end of the street was dead. A few of the storefronts had plywood sheets nailed over their windows. Kids hung out near the benches at the far end of the parking lot, laughing and cursing, showing off for one another.

A police car cruised past, slowing to give the kids a long looking over. Other than that, hardly anyone was around.

Well, but it was nearly winter, Chip reminded himself. Any tourists this remote, thinly settled coastal area got in summer had gone home weeks ago. He felt another pang of homesickness for the city, where sirens and garbage trucks and the low, constant thrum of human activity at least reassured him that someone was alive 24/7.

“Come on, Chipper,” Carolyn whined from in front of the restaurant. With the satchel digging what felt like a trench into his neck, he hurried to catch up with her, looking both ways unnecessarily before he crossed the street.

“So, does this place meet with Madame’s approval?” he asked her when he reached the other side.

He’d have been happy to get a sandwich and fries at a burger joint on the mainland. But Carolyn had vetoed those, supposedly on the grounds that she wanted to eat authentic Maine seafood.

Why that could be gotten only on an island she didn’t bother explaining, and anyway he wouldn’t have believed it. He knew the real reason was that none of the places they had passed served drinks, and because they were way out here in the boonies, she was saving the rest of the vodka in the satchel for later.

“Listen, about tomorrow …” he began hesitantly. He’d been thinking all day about how to tell her. Might as well get it over with. But she brushed him away with an impatient flutter of red-tipped fingers, while diners inside the restaurant’s large plate-glass windows observed her with interest.

No surprise there; in her late twenties, Carolyn was still girlishly striking, with long, glossy black hair, enormous blue eyes, and expert makeup he knew she’d paid a mint to learn to apply. Tonight she wore skinny black jeans with a white silk shirt, heeled leather boots, and a black leather jacket that made her tiny frame look even slimmer than it was.

But then, Carolyn’s outfits always looked good, too, even after a long drive or a hellish transcontinental flight or a mob-scene book signing, because no matter the difficulty of the task, she always made sure someone else did the heavy lifting.

A beat-up old Ford pickup went by with a low rumble of bad muffler, one fender hanging on by a glob of Bondo and the other heavily patched with duct tape. All Chip could hear of the music coming from the truck was the bass line:
boomp, boomp, boomp
. When the kid behind the wheel spotted Carolyn, his jaw dropped and the truck slowed suddenly, as if the mere sight of her had taken the strength from the driver’s body.

Chip rolled his eyes. Makeup lessons or not, he personally thought that her eyeliner was way too heavy, and that the blood-colored lipstick Carolyn wore made her mouth resemble a wound.

“Oh, tomorrow,” she mimicked him, ignoring the kid who now revved his truck’s engine show-offily and had to rescue it from a stall before roaring away.

“We’ve been through that already, Chip, okay?” Carolyn said. “Spend all day with these friends of yours if you want to, but I have other plans. I mean, I didn’t come this far just to chicken out at the last minute.”

“Fine. Whatever you say.” It wasn’t what he’d wanted to talk about. But when she got like this, there was no point arguing with her. He held the restaurant door for her, then abruptly forgot his troubles at the aromas greeting him inside.

Grilled vegetables, garlicky shrimp in some kind of wine sauce, and a heap of rice pilaf went by on a platter. He felt as if all the delicious
smells were seizing him by the nose, floating him through the air like a cartoon character.

A hostess swiftly seated them at a table near the window, brought glasses of wine, and recommended a combination plate containing samples of the day’s specials. A short time later—Carolyn hadn’t even finished her wine before the food began arriving, a first for her, in Chip’s experience—ecstasy ensued.

Smoked-salmon pizza slid down like ambrosia, the lobster in spinach sauce tasted like heaven, and the duck with a conserve of ginger and passion fruit … absolute bliss. After half an hour Chip sighed, relaxing into the pleasure of a decent meal after a long day’s drive, then looked up to find Carolyn eyeing him sourly.

BOOK: Home Repair is Homicide 13 - Crawlspace
6.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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